House passes long-awaited aid for Ukraine, Israel, Indo-Pacific

House passes long-awaited aid for Ukraine, Israel, Indo-Pacific

By large margins on Saturday, the House passed a package of three linked bills advancing $60 billion in military aid for Ukraine, $26 billion in military aid for Israel, and $8 billion for “countering China” in the Pacific. 

The measures come at “a moment of grave urgency, with Israel facing unprecedented attacks from Iran, and Ukraine under continued bombardment from Russia,” U.S. President Joe Biden said in a statement. “I urge the Senate to quickly send this package to my desk so that I can sign it into law and we can quickly send weapons and equipment to Ukraine to meet their urgent battlefield needs.” 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy tweeted, “Democracy and freedom will always have global significance and will never fail as long as America helps to protect it. The vital U.S. aid bill passed today by the House will keep the war from expanding, save thousands and thousands of lives, and help both of our nations to become stronger.”

The Ukraine bill includes $23.2 billion to replenish arms that the United States has already sent, like 155mm howitzer rounds; $13.8 billion to procure advanced weapons; and other money to better monitor the aid. In a step that some Republicans had been pushing, the bill also requires the White House to give Ukraine as many as 1,000 ATACMS missiles, long-range weapons that the Biden administration first provided last fall after withholding them for months as too provocative. 

“By providing approximately $50 billion that will flow directly into our defense industrial base, this bill will create good American jobs in more than 30 states even as it reinforces U.S. long-term security,” U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement. 

The Israel aid package includes $4 billion to replenish Iron Dome and David’s Sling interceptors missiles, which helped ward off last weekend’s Iranian drone-and-missile attack. The bill includes $9.5 billion in humanitarian aid for Gaza, which is currently approaching famine conditions, as well as other “vulnerable populations.” It also prohibits funds to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. It does include $1 billion for other artillery and munitions and $2.4 for current U.S. military operations, which have included aid drops to Gaza.

The  Indo-Pacific Security Supplemental Appropriations Act includes $2 billion for Foreign Military Financing Program for Taiwan and other regional partners, $1.9 billion to build Taiwan military capabilities, and $3.3 billion to build drydocks and boost other regional infrastructure for U.S. submarines, among other items. 

It was a long and difficult journey to arrive at this point. U.S. President Joe Biden first proposed the aid in October, rhetorically linking Ukraine’s fight against Russia to Israel’s conflict with Hamas after the October 7 terror attacks. They were two democracies under fire by autocracies, went the thinking.

Not everyone bought it. Many Republicans in particular expressed more interest in funding Israel than Ukraine. Two days after the Hamas attacks, Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri tweeted, “Israel is facing existential threat. Any funding for Ukraine should be redirected to Israel immediately.”

Months later, the facts on the ground tell a very different story. The Russian invaders have regained ground as U.S. aid dwindled, and U.S. military leaders and intelligence officials warned that Ukrainian forces are in danger of collapse unless it resumes soon.

Israel, on the other hand, said it had “dismantled” Hamas and rebuffed rocket and drone attacks from Iran with the help of the United States and other countries. 

Many in the president’s party urged an end to increased military aid for Israel. 

“Unlike Ukraine, Israel simply does not need fiscal assistance from the United States at the level contained in this bill. Israel is a wealthy nation with the ability to borrow, and recently-passed appropriations language provided Israel with $3.8 billion,” Rep. Don Bayer, D-Va., said in a statement. “I support humanitarian assistance and have voted in the past to fund defensive capabilities including Iron Dome, but too much of this funding is likely to pay for weapons that recent history says will lead to more civilian deaths.”

House Speaker Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., who declined for months to bring the aid bills to a vote, already faces a backlash from some Republicans who have promised to use an obscure recent rules change to try to force him from the speakership, similar to his predecessor, former California congressman Kevin McCarthy. 

But Johnson finally stood his ground and spoke his mind this week, saying that he believed the intelligence community’s assessment about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s broader imperial ambitions. “I think that Vladimir Putin would continue to march through Europe if he were allowed. I think he might go to the Balkans next. I think he might have a showdown with Poland, or one of our NATO allies,” he said. Quoting John Quincy Adams, he included: “Duty is ours. Results are God’s.” 

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